It’s been two years since the publication of a 150-page book with the bland title, Islam, Jews and the Temple Mount, written by Islamic and Middle Eastern studies scholar Yitzhak Reiter and researcher Dvir Diamant. But if the title was uninspiring, the contents were explosive for Muslims, for Jews, and for Christians especially.
The authors showed that major Muslim historical sources from the 7th through the 20th centuries acknowledged the Jewish connection to the Temples in Jerusalem. This was a foundational Muslim belief.
Further, the authors argued that Islam, to preserve its own legitimacy, even needed to maintain that linkage.
Respected Islamic historians in the past two millennia believed that Islam was “a continuation of the monotheistic religion and its early prophets, with Muhammad as the last prophet in this succession” (ibid., p. 7). The Jewish and Christian origins gave Islam its validity. A few examples:
· Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (10th century), using descriptions almost identical to those in II Chronicles, wrote about King David being unable to build the Temple;
· Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Wasiti (11th cent.), the Al-Aqsa Mosque preacher, described King Solomon opening the Temple gates. The wording is almost identical to text in the Babylonian Talmud. Abu Bakr authored the first and most-famous Muslim literature compilation of the genre called “In praise of Jerusalem”;
· Ibn Khaldun (14th cent.), author of Muqaddimah, with wording borrowed entirely from 1 Kings, chapter 6, wrote about King Solomon building the Temple;
· Mujir al-Din (15th cent.), also quotes the Bible in describing King Solomon building the Temple.
This association was the Muslim belief, but it would not last.
Israeli author and journalist Nadav Shragai has also written about this subject (Israel Hayom, May 10, 2021). He states that until the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which expressed support for the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people,” Muslim sources confirmed the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. The Six-Day War, however, was the breaking point, after which the “Muslim narrative took a drastic turn. And denying any Jewish link to the Temple Mount became the prevalent argument. From then on, Muslims turned their backs on a vast and rich Islamic literature that confirms the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.”
The Jews being victorious in battle was bad enough, but them regaining control of the Temple Mount in June 1967, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque had been built in the late 7th century, was unconscionable. The Muslim world would not tolerate its holy site being under non-Muslim control.
It was the trigger for a rewrite of history. As Reiter and Diamant state: “[M]any in the Muslim world ignore or even refute their own classical sources in Arabic, which span centuries and have a vast body of literature that recognizes the Jewish history of Jerusalem and Jewish holy sites” (pp. 1-2).
This is important. The Muslim world today is almost unanimous in denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. Many Muslims even deny the fact that the Temple Mount ever existed. Many Muslim scholars and even government heads reject any Jewish claim, historical or religious, to Jerusalem.
For the faithful Christian, that is heresy. If the bond of Jesus the Jew and the Jewish Disciples to the Temple King Solomon built 3,000 years ago is broken, then the New Testament is reduced to a mere collection of fictional tales promoting conservative morals and ethics, with a bonus of apocalyptic speculations. Is any of it even true? Perhaps even Jesus is a fiction.
Church leaders today have been nearly silent on this subject. This silence has allowed continued assaults on the legitimacy of their faith. Just one example is the Palestinian-Arab claim that Jesus was a Palestinian, not a Jew. When such absurdities are left unchallenged, the New Testament narrative becomes corrupted.
Christian scholars and ministers certainly reject Islam because it contradicts the Bible. The vast majority, however, rarely teach their flocks why the Bible record is true. History and archaeology are superfluous subjects for the faithful, except for seminary students.
Jewish practices do incorporate the minutiae of history. The history behind the Passover story, for example, is essential to its celebration, and even children are familiar with it. The construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and the Temple in Jerusalem, is learned by every child who receives a proper Jewish education. By adulthood, every Jew knows his or her descendancy is rooted in the Torah.
Even so, faith is necessary too. Particularly among liberal Jews, as among liberal Christians, skepticism without faith leads to disinterest, witness the tragedy of so many empty pews in modernist churches and synagogues. Across Europe, thousands of houses of worship are being turned into apartments, or sometimes sold and converted into mosques. Faith and fact must go hand in hand.